Agencies Post Opportunities for Reskilling Academy Grads to Use Their New Cyber Skills

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Three agencies posted nine openings on the Open Opportunities site, offering temporary details to feds looking to sharpen newly acquired cybersecurity skills.

As the Trump administration works to reskill current federal employees to meet the workforce needs of the 21st century, lead agencies are now making sure there are jobs for those trainees to transition to—at least temporarily.

Wednesday, the Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management, in conjunction with the Federal Chief Information Officers Council, announced the first wave of “temporary detail opportunities.” Nine positions were posted to the Open Opportunities job board, where current federal employees can find temporary or part-time work with other agencies to improve their skills.

While the details are open to any qualified federal employee, the latest push is intended to create opportunities for graduates of the Cyber Reskilling Academy.

“We cannot overcome the shortage in the federal cybersecurity workforce overnight,” Federal CIO Suzette Kent said Wednesday in a statement. “By continuing to invest and support reskilling programs, coupled with hands-on opportunities to apply those skills, the federal government is positioning itself to strengthen our cybersecurity workforce capabilities.”

The Reskilling Academy launched in April 2019 with an initial cohort of 25 students, plucked from more than 2,000 applicants from across government with no prior cybersecurity or IT background. Those students went through 13 weeks of training and came out the other side with a set of basic cyber defense skills. However, due to the nature of the federal employment hierarchy—known as the General Schedule—those graduates were not able to immediately transition to cybersecurity jobs.

OMB recognized the job placement issue and began looking at ways to move the program forward, including first broaching the idea in October of using Open Opportunities.

“By serving as a governmentwide bulletin board for short-term assignments, details and training opportunities around the federal government, Open Opportunities will help agencies tap into the valuable talent and skills we already have and are developing within government,” said OPM Director Dale Cabaniss.

The postings that went live Wednesday do not give specific timeline for the details. However, back in October, OPM Principal Deputy Associate Director for Employee Services Veronica Villalobos told Nextgov the agency was looking at nine-month tours.

Three agencies—Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Veterans Affairs Department and the Environmental Protection Agency—posted nine openings Wednesday to Open Opportunities, most with multiple positions available.

The posts contain a brief description of the office seeking assistance, a rundown of the tasks the employee will be asked to perform and a list of skills they should expect to leave with when the detail is done.

Most of the openings focus on policy and security assessments. For example, the VA opportunity is for a “junior IT specialist to prepare, deploy and transition DOD/VA electronic health records.” In this role, the detailee will work with the Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization to review documentation for the authority to operate—a certification verifying a baseline of cybersecurity for an application—and make edits and recommendations, as needed.

Similarly, CISA has two to five openings for GS-12 to GS-15 employees to serve as cyber policy and strategy planners. The position "[d]evelops policies and plans and/or advocates for changes in policy that support organizational cyberspace initiatives or required changes/enhancements," per the posting, which cites the job description directly from the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, or NICE.

The administration is also looking to expand the Reskilling Academy outside of OMB. In the president’s 2021 budget proposal, OMB directed departments to include funding for a distributed reskilling effort run independently out of each agency but based on the central Reskilling Academy model. Per the plan, the administration hopes to reskill some 400,000 federal employees in cybersecurity, data science and other technology-focused areas.